Since Leon Daggett retired as Independence Power & Light director in June 2017, Deputy Director Andy Boatright has served as acting director.
Now, the city seeks to make the utilities leadership more permanent without adding any personnel.
The City Council on Monday will consider an ordinance to make Assistant City Manager Mark Randall the director of public utilities, overseeing a newly created department of all three utilities, as allowed by the City Charter.
Since City Manager Zach Walker hired him in November 2016, Randall has had oversight of the electric, water and water pollution control utilities. If approved, the ordinance simply would formalize the structure that's been in effect for several months.
Boatright as deputy director would be empowered to run day-to-day operations of Power & Light – something that would be appropriately reflected in his job description, Walker told the Public Utilities Advisory Board last month – and Dan Montgomery (water) and Lisa Phelps (WPC) would continue as directors of their respective departments.
Randall, who had been city manager in Pleasant Hill for 18 years before coming to Independence, technically would be IPL's director, as envisioned in the City Charter where it allows for the Department of Public Utilities to be created.
Walker said such an organizational structure is similar to what Columbia and Springfield have, and by essentially not filling Daggett's salary the city would save about $300,000 and become more efficient without hurting service.
“I think this gives us an opportunity to do something progressive here,” Walker said. “We want to demonstrate every effort to be financially efficient that we can.”
Daggett has served as a consultant for the city in the final year of his contract that ends Sept. 30. Walker said Daggett's contacts from his years of work have led to multiple development leads for the city.
Walker emphasized that the proposed arrangement shows no bad reflection of the current directors or an intention to dissolve a city utility. In addition, while it simply formalizes what's been in practice, Walker said removing the “acting” title should provide a sense of security for everyone and underline that current management all around is strong.
“Mark is one of the absolute best managers of people I've ever been around,” Walker said.
“It's as boring and straightforward as, 'We want to make sure we're optimizing our resources,'” he told the PUAB. “I think it would be a fool's errand if we ever tried to dissolve any of our public utility assets. I hope everybody can see this for the simplistic reality that it is.”
NEW UTILITY BILLS: Independence city utility customers will see a new bill and larger envelope in the mail beginning Monday. Customer service officers as well as online and phone payments will be shut down Friday through Monday for the transition. Customers whose bills are due during this period are welcome to use drop boxes at the Independence Utility Center, 17221 E. 23rd St., and at City Hall, 111 E. Maple Ave.
A description of the new bills and detailed overview can be found online at indep.us/newutilitybills2018.
Among the changes:
• Utility customers will receive a new account number and new customer number, and access codes will not be needed.
• Those who receive an electronic bill will need to re-register with the new account and customer information.
• Those using their bank's online bill payment system will need to use a combined customer and account number as their new account number on their bank's website.
• Those who have signed up through the city for automatic electronic payments will not need to update their bank information.
The city says customers should see improved information in their online account, including detailed payment history, comparative usage data for previous years and the ability to view or print bills for convenience.